I took my first yoga class when I was 18 years old. I signed up for the class as a one-credit course in college to satisfy one of my liberal arts requirements. I knew nothing about yoga when I signed up, but I was open to trying something new.
My first yoga teacher, Carol, was a blonde, blue-eyed woman in her 40s or 50s. Her voice was soft, and her body was strong. She taught the class from two books, “Yoga: The Iyengar Way” and “Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health.” These books are the foundation of my yoga practice, and I still have them today.
Carol taught me how to close my eyes, be still, and “look out through the backs of my eyes.” At 18, I had no idea what she really meant by this. But what I did know is that when I walked out of that class, my body felt lighter, my breath felt easier, and the world somehow looked more beautiful to me.
Now, at age 46, “looking out through the backs of my eyes” means that I can stop looking outward and start looking inward. I quiet my mind, let go of distractions, and seek the stillness. It is within the stillness that I can connect to tranquility, wisdom and joy.
For me, yoga was never about the contortions I could or could not put my body through on the mat. Instead, I was drawn to the way yoga made me feel. Yoga has been my grounding practice through all the big moments in my life. I practiced yoga to help settle my mind and relieve stress as I worked my way through college. I practiced during pregnancy to help my body adapt and prepare for birthing my two beautiful, healthy babies. I practiced after each pregnancy to help my body heal from childbirth. I practiced when I was grieving the loss of one unborn child. I practiced when my babies were small, and my body was exhausted, and my mind was weary and restless. I practiced while my toddlers napped, so I could restore my energy and make it through the second half of each day. And finally, I practiced yoga on the floor at bedtime in both of my boys’ rooms as their bodies settled down and they finally fell asleep. Yoga is, and always has been, the practice that brings me home.